Minimising the cost of Open Access

London Higher and SPARC-Europe today released an important report on the administration of OA and, in particular, its costs to the sector. While no survey is ever perfect, and it is early days, the findings make sobering reading. For example, the report finds that, in 2013-14, the sector spent nearly as much on administering the RCUK OA policy (£9.2m) as it did on paying APCs (£11m), though note that the administration of an APC is estimated at £81 which is a much smaller proportion of the average APC (perhaps around £1800). There are also estimated costs associated with implementing the REF OA policy. I was at a meeting of the independent panel reviewing the implementation of the RCUK OA policy today, and this report is seen as an important piece of evidence in that review, that will inform its final report due in the next month or two.

The report concludes that savings could be made by addressing four particular areas, and notes that Jisc is active in those areas, so I wanted briefly to outline what our activity is. Apologies to regular readers of this blog, for whom none of this is likely to be news, though there are some updates here.

1. Improvements in knowledge-sharing
The OA Good Practice initiative is specifically designed to enable knowledge sharing between universities. It comprises workshops, webinars, briefings, blogs and so on, with nine pathfinder projects involving 30 universities exploring different aspects of implementation. The first quarterly synthesis of the outcomes from these projects is now being designed, and is slated for release in the next week or two; keep an eye on the OA Good Practice blog. Another forum, being revived in January, is the “Research Information Management Group”; this has been a high-level information sharing group whose members include national bodies (eg, Research Councils, HEFCE), universities, and their representative bodies (eg, RLUK, ARMA). Many other mechanisms exist, of course, such as those offered by bodies like ARMA, SCONUL and RLUK, with whom Jisc works increasingly closely.

2. Joint development of systems (in collaboration with third party vendors)
Perhaps the key Jisc work in this area is around standards. Readers will be aware of RIOXX, the basic metadata profile that enables repositories to meet many of the information requirements of RCUK and the REF. Release of this, and the associated plugins for systems such as EPrints, has been delayed while NISO finalises its recommendations on certain fields, but yesterday I saw a copy of those, and expect RIOXX to be released very soon. (I know we’ve said that before, and I wouldn’t blame readers for being a little sceptical, but I am hopeful now.) However, RIOXX only covers many, not all, of the fields needed for reporting, management and audit around OA policies. The Jisc-CASRAI group on OA reporting is working hard on an expanded range of fields to enable much wider interoperability and consistency. At its most recent telcon yesterday, I’m glad to say that we agreed that vendors will need to be consulted as part of this work.

3. Greater sharing of policies and procedures
Much of the work I’ve outlined above does contribute to sharing policies and procedures, but I’ll also mention an initiative that I’ve been working on, partly as part of the EC PASTEUR4OA project in which Jisc is a partner. With others, such as the Sherpa team, we have developed a candidate schema by which organisations (universities, funders) issuing OA policies can do so using a standard set of terms and expressions. I remember at an ALPSP event earlier this year, seeing a slide from John Norman at Cambridge, which showed just how complicated and unclear an author’s life could get when subject to more than one OA policy, and this schema might be one way to move some of that burden off authors, and onto those issuing OA policies. We’ve circulated the candidate schema internationally, through various channels, and hope to get support and feedback shortly.

4. Automation of compliance reporting processes.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Jisc’s main work here is the Jisc Monitor project. Most recently, this has outlined some prototype services being developed, based on extensive consultation, to bring data together and increase the automation of compliance monitoring and reporting. The project has an important review meeting on 18th December, where its remaining priorities will be agreed, so if you have anything you’d like to input into that, please either post a comment here or get in touch with me ( – note new email address) or the project manager (Jo Lambert, We’re confident that Jisc Monitor services will be fully operational during 2015, to help universities comply with OA policies.

The supply chain, and associated digital infrastructure, supporting subscription journals grew up over 50 years. The move to OA changes workflows in some important ways, and requires adjustments in that supply chain, and new digital infrastructure. It is, perhaps, not surprising that these changes and adjustments cost time and money, but we must remember that it is worth it. The benefits of Open Access far outweigh these costs; we must not forget that.

By Neil Jacobs

JISC Programme Director, Digital Infrastructure (Information Environment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.